Farm News March 2014
A Vermont Tradition:
Maple Open House Weekend
This past weekend (March 22-23) was Maple Open House Weekend across Vermont. Over a hundred sugarmakers, including Vermont Trade Winds Farm, opened up their doors for visitors to see how Vermont maple syrup is made. This is a state-wide event, but each sugarmaker offers their own unique experience to visitors.
Real maple cream donuts! A full pancake breakfast is also offered at many of the sugarhouses, with all the fresh warm maple syrup you can pour. Maple cream donuts, sugar-on-snow, maple taffy, sap tea, maple candy, and maple cotton candy are just some of the "maple treats" you'll find. Often there are horse drawn wagon rides and hands-on activities like sap gathering and maple tree tapping (drilling a hole in the tree to let the sap out).
Both sugarmaker and visitors hope for Mother Nature to provide the right temperatures for maple flow so that visitors can see the sugarhouse in action. Billowing clouds of steam coming from the sugarhouse means you are in luck!
Scenes from Vermont Trade Winds Farm
Open House Weekend March 22-23, 2014
Visitors can walk into the woods to see how maple syrup was boiled in the 1800's. Sap was boiled down over an open fire. A large wooden ladle would be used to transfer the syrup out of the kettle into another kettle. Here, the final boiling was done over a more controlled fire to keep the syrup from burning.
A view heading up our Maple Trail, where visitors can learn about Vermont's sugar maple tree and methods for collecting the sap. The pipeline on the right transfers sap to the sugarhouse from the woods.
A cross-section cut of a maple tree shows how we drill a hole each year into the sapwood. This outer layer of wood is where the sap flows during the warm days of late winter and early spring.
Back in the sugarhouse, a fresh batch of maple syrup is drawn off into a pail. 3-5 gallons of maple syrup are drawn off about every half hour. A good day can produce about 50 gallons of maple syrup.
2014 Maple Season Update
by Tim Hescock, VTWF Sugarmaker
March 27, 2014, updated April 30, 2014 (see below)
An old-fashioned cold winter.
That sums up our maple syrup production season so far. Nearby, 125 mile long Lake Champlain, has froze over for the first time in almost 20 years. With temperatures holding between 0 and 30 degrees F. for most of February and March there has been little sap to collect from the frozen maple trees. To date, we've only fired our wood-fired evaporator 4 times, producing about 15% of a crop.
Is there still time for a good maple season?
Within a few days we are expecting a long warm spell, which will at least give us some big "runs" of sap. What happens after that will be critical. If temperatures continue to freeze at night and thaw during the day we can still have a good season. If spring arrives and nighttime temperatures stay above freezing, the season could be a disappointment. Typically, our maple season ends after the first week in April. If that happens this year, our production could be as low as 50% of a crop.
Final Season Update, April 30th, 2014:
A lot less than 2013, but almost 75% of a normal maple syrup crop.
For the first time in our history we produced more maple syrup in the month of April, then March. April usually spells the end of our maple season, but moderately cool temperatures allowed us to produce in the first 2 weeks of April. We finished with about 900 gallons of maple, compared to last year's crop of 1300 gallons.
New Maple Syrup Grading System?
We have postponed changing our grading system here at Vermont Trade Winds Farm until this summer. (we don't like change either!) The State of Vermont has given producers until 2015 to implement the change. That being said, we are getting our first "taste" (literally!) of the new system. We we are grading 2014 production under the new system.
This information will be furnished again later this year, but click on the image below to see how your old favorite grade of maple syrup will measure up to the new one: